Pubdate: Wed, 18 Apr 2001
Source: Mother Jones (US)
Copyright: 2001 Foundation for National Progress
Author: Jamie K. McCallum
Cited: Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Drug Reform Coordination Network


Bush's Education Secretary Is Aiming To Take The High Out Of Higher
Education -- By Cutting Off Financial Aid To Convicted Drug Users.

Tens of thousands of American students may be denied federal financial
assistance this year, as the Bush administration steps up enforcement
of a 1998 law barring aid to applicants with past drug convictions
(see our story Smoke a Joint, Lose Your Loan).

Last year only 8,620 students were denied assistance after admitting
to a drug conviction on their aid applications. Another 300,000 left
the "drug question" unanswered, but had their forms processed anyway.
This year, however, the Education Department has announced that
failing to answer the question will result in a rejected application.
So far, with nearly 4 million applications processed out of an
expected total of 10 million, almost 15,000 students have left the
question unanswered, and some 27,000 have admitted to a drug offense.

"We're talking at least 90,000 students who could be affected by this
when it's all said and done," says Shawn Heller of Students for
Responsible Drug Policy, which has helped convince more than 50
student governments to pass resolutions against the law. Organizations
including the NAACP, the ACLU and the National Organization for Women
have also come out against the statute, and Massachusetts Democratic
Rep. Barney Frank has introduced a bill to repeal it.

None of that seems to have impressed Education Secretary Rod Paige,
who decided this spring to begin stringently enforcing the law,
according to Education Department spokesperson Lindsey Kozberg.
"Congress passed legislation and our department is obliged to carry
out that legislative direction," she told reporters on April 17.

Admitting to a drug conviction does not automatically disqualify
someone from receiving aid -- depending on the severity of the
conviction, students may still be eligible to receive partial funding.
Still, for lower-income students even a partial aid loss can make
higher education unaffordable. "As a society, we should be asking
ourselves if what we really want is a hundred thousand fewer kids in
college," says Chris Evans, campus coordinator with the Drug Reform
Coordination Network 
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